Critical Golf Accessory: Pocket Handkerchief

There are several New Yorker writers and at least one award-winning novelist in this group. Lido Golf Club, Lido Beach, New York, September 21, 2012.

On Friday, at Lido Golf Club, three members of my foursome had an odd thing in common: we were carrying little packs of Kleenex, in response to a tenacious cold that’s been burning its way through the Northeast. Kleenex isn’t an ideal golf accessory, because it goes airborne in a breeze and doesn’t hold up to rain or even dew. On Saturday, back at home, I remembered to carry a handkerchief. As a result, I never did what I have often done when my nose was running on a golf course: find the least disgusting square inch of my golf towel and blow my nose into it.

Handkerchiefs have fallen out of use in the general population, but they’re good for golfers, especially in high winds, or during cold or allergy season. I paid fourteen dollars for a thirteen-pack of Van Heusen cotton handkerchiefs—just right for a week-long golf trip to Scotland or Ireland. If I had any sense, I’d keep at least one clean handkerchief in my golf bag all the time.

Incidentally, Kleenex facial tissues were introduced in 1924 as a “sanitary cold cream remover,” but sales remained modest until six years later, when Kimberly-Clark re-positioned them as disposable handkerchiefs. Times change.  In 2003, one of my nieces, who was eleven, saw her grandfather using a handkerchief and asked, with astonishment, “Is that a cloth Kleenex?” I had handkerchiefs when I was a kid—some with monograms—but I would bet that neither of my children, who are in their twenties, has ever used one.

Daniel Wexler, in his terrific book The Missing Links, devotes a chapter to the original Lido, which was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and Seth Raynor. Bernard Darwin called it “the finest course in the world,” and Claude Harmon called it “the greatest golf course ever.” Part of the current course—which was designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1965—occupies part of the original property, but suburban tract houses cover much of the old layout, and Jones’s course is nothing special. Anyone interested in golf history should own a copy of The Missing Links—and not only because Wexler was a college roommate of my brother’s.

The modern Lido, with smoke stacks and a landfill on the far shore. JFK International Airport is about nine miles to the left.